Roger Decock, the oldest living winner of the Tour of Flanders, died Saturday night. He was 93 years old.
Decock rode from 1949-1961, also picking up victories at the 1951 Paris-Nice and 1954 Scheldeprijs.
The Belgian’s career-defining victory at the 1952 Tour of Flanders saw him beat Loretto Petrucci and Briek Schotte. “That Tour of Flanders brought me 29,000 francs (725 euros) altogether,” he had told Het Nieuwsblad. “I received 6,000 francs for the win, another 3,000 because I was second over the top of the Muur, and my Bertin team gave me a premium of 20,000 francs on top.”
Decock’s name will also go down in Tour de France legend despite only riding twice, in 1951 and 1952. At the 1951 edition, he witnessed yellow jersey Wim Van Est falling into a ravine while descending the Col d’Aubisque. He raised a warning to authorities and waited to help his rival.
“He [van Est] was wearing the yellow jersey then. I was fifth. I didn’t climb as well as Louison Bobet or Gino Bartali, but I got my share. In the stage to Tarbes, Van Est and I were on the top of the Aubisque. In the descent, Wim already slipped at the first two turns, but at the third, it was a good price. He flew 70 meters deep in the ravine. I tried to inform everyone that Van Est had fallen badly, but nobody stopped until my sports director Sylvère Maes stopped and asked what I was doing there,” Decock had recalled to Het Nieuwsblad.
“I told him that Van Est was down there, that he urgently needed help,” Decock continued. “Maes told me it would be all right and I had to ride on. I lost 25 minutes waiting, but I didn’t care. I found a person in need more important.”
Decock died Saturday night at his home in Aarsele, Belgium. A Flandrien through and through, he was reported to be fit, healthy, and socializing with the current pro peloton at the Nieuwsblad-Flandrien Gala as recently as last winter. Like many Belgians, he was known to be a big fan of Greg Van Avermaet.